In the process of moving and de-accessioning a lot of my china, glass and silver heirlooms (Dec-accessioning sounds so much better than “getting rid of”), I rediscovered one of my favorite silver pieces. It will stay in my new home, because I found a new/double life for it.
Some Silver Heirlooms Are Not Favorites
I am amused at the way that Victorians had a piece of china, crystal and silver for every purpose you could think of. There was the dessert fork, the pickle fork, the olive fork, the fish fork. And besides the dinner plate, salad plate and dessert plate, there was a bone dish to delicately dispose of the bones from your chicken or fish. When it came to service pieces, you could get a glass and silver plate pickle castor, complete with tongs to grab a pickle. Note that the end of the tong is a little hand. I don’t know whether this is clever or creepy.
This pickle caster belonged to my Great-Grandmother Hattie Stout. She gave it to Jenny McDowell King who gave it to her daughter Alice King who gave it to Vera Stout Anderson who gave it to my mother, Harriette Anderson Kaser. (Alice King was a cousin of Vera Anderson’s husband Guy–not a blood relative of Hattie Stout, but apparently close to the family.)
Some Silver Heirlooms Become Favorites
But I digress. The piece I want to show you today is a spoon holder. And since it is too small, at 7 1/2″ at the very tip of the longest point, to comfortably hold regular teaspoons, I have to assume that it held demitasse or coffee spoons for fancy tea parties. This silver dish belonged to my Great-Grandmother Hattie Stout, passed down to my grandmother and then my mother. Unlike the pickle caster above, I have kept this one polished.
In the next photo, the maker’s mark shows lightly. Even with a magnifying glass, I had trouble seeing the entire name of the maker, but could make out Van B—- Silver Plate Co., Quadruple Plate, Rochester New York, 350.
Dectective Work on the Silver Heirloom
A little internet detective work quickly revealed that the company name is Van Bergh Silver Plate Co. They apparently used quadruple plate on many of their creations–making them more lasting than those with only one coat of silver plate. The “350” is the catalog number for this particular design. I could not find any matching pieces on line.
A site that helps people find missing pieces of silver or china is particularly helpful in getting information on companies–particularly those that have gone out of business or sold to another company. Checking Replacements Ltd, www.replacements.com, I quickly found the Van Bergh company and saw many of their beautiful creations. From various other sources, I learned that Van Bergh Silverplate Company of Rochester, NY was founded by brothers Frederick W. and Maurice H. Van Bergh in 1892. They incorporated as Van Bergh Silver Plate Company Inc. in 1925, and merged with Oneida Community Ltd. in 1926.
That means Great-Grandma’s silver piece was made some time during a 34-year period. Since the number of the pattern is small (I saw numbers in the 8000 range), I assume that this was an earlier piece, which makes sense in that she was married in 1872, and her husband died in 1910. Their greatest period of acquisition would have been between 1880 and 1900, when “Doc” Stout had a successful medical practice. So I think a good guess is that this piece was manufactured in the 1890s.
From Ohio to the Tasmanian Sea
I have repurposed the spoon holder. (My guests would probably look at me strangely if I presented spoons for coffee in a fancy dish like this.)
The picture below shows Great-Grandmother’s spoon holder with rocks collected on the shore of the Tasmanian sea on the west coast of New Zealand’s South Island. So it becomes a reminder of my family past and my travels. This little silver dish has come a long way in time and holds a collection that came a long way in distance.
Jeanne Bryan Insalaco, Everyone Has a Story to Tell, started a Family Heirloom challenge in November 2015 asking fellow bloggers to join her in telling the stories of their family heirlooms. Here are some of the bloggers who also blog about heirlooms.
Cathy Meder-Dempsey at Opening Doors in Brick Walls
Karen Biesfeld at Vorfahrensucher
Kendra Schmidt at trekthrutime
Linda Stufflebean at Empty Branches on the Family Tree
Schalene Jennings Dagutis at Tangled Roots and Trees
True Lewis at Notes to Myself
Heather Lisa Dubnick at Little Oak Blog
Kathy Rice at Every Leaf Has a Story
Mary Harrell-Sesniak at Genealogy Bank Heirlooms Blog
Are you a blogger who writes about heirlooms (even once in a while)? Let me know in the comment section and I’ll add your blog to this list.